Israel forces withdrew overnight Thursday from most Palestinan Authority-controlled areas in the West Bank, in the wake of U.S. peace envoy Anthony Zinni's visit in Israel.
Israeli military sources confirmed to AFP that the army was pulling out early Friday of Ramallah, after coming under heavy US pressure to end its occupation there.
By Friday morning, the Israeli army had left all positions in Area A in Ramallah and Qalqilyah and lifted the blockade on the Tulkarem refugee camp. Israeli troops also left the Al Borej refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
But the Israeli army was redeployed around the Palestinian cities due to attack warnings, and some forces remained in PA areas in Bethlehem and some other points next to Jenin.
In Qalqilyah, Israel said its troops uncovered several explosive belts, which were detonated by sappers, and arrested three Palestinians. Israeli soldiers also arrested three Palestinians in the village of Talusa.
In Gaza Strip, Israeli troops killed one Palestinian and arrested another Friday morning. The Israeli side said the two Palestinians had infiltrated the area of the Elei Sinai settlement, according to Israel Radio.
The two Palestinians had in their possession fence cutters, fragmentary grenades and bullets, and appear to have been on their way to carry out an attack in the settlement, according to Israeli media reports.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Resistance movement Hamas said it would continue its attacks against Israel during Zinni's visit. Hamas waged a series of suicide bomb attacks in early December during Zinni's first attempt to broker a ceasefire between the warring sides and helped to sink his mission.
"Zinni's presence in the region does not mean the end of Israeli occupation, and therefore Hamas will continue its resistance, whether Zinni comes or not," a Hamas spokesman told AFP.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met Thursday night with Zinni. The meeting was also attended by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Cabinet minister Tzipi Livni, U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, Israeli Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz and Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter.
Zinni is scheduled to convene the highest echelons of the joint Israeli-Palestinian security committee. Israel, for its part, will be represented by Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter; the head of planning in the general staff, Major General Giora Eiland and Brigadier General Eibal Giladi, head of strategic planning under Eiland. The sides are yet to agree on the date of this meeting.
The Palestinian representatives, for their part, will be the heads of the preventive security forces in the West Bank and Gaza, Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan respectively, as well as Gaza General Intelligence chief Amin al-Hindi. It is not clear if his counterpart in the West Bank, Tawfik Tirawi, will be invited to the meeting.
Zinni is scheduled to meet Friday with Defense Ben-Eliezer, Peres and later in the day with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
© 2000 - 2022 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)